During the past 17 months, whilst the country has been in and out of lockdown, pet ownership has exploded. With most rescue centres closed, people turned to breeders in search of their perfect pedigree. But due to the increased demand, they were met with a steep hike in prices. This extra cost has made many new owners consider taking out an insurance policy to help with financial protection should the worst happen. But before you take the plunge, what do you need to know to ensure your insurance doesn’t bite back?

According to The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest registration database for pedigree dogs, around 75% of the 12 million dogs in the UK are pedigree, meaning both parents are of the same breed and both are registered with The Kennel Club or other recognised society. The most popular pedigree breed is currently the Labrador Retriever, closely followed by the French Bulldog and the Cocker Spaniel. 

Any dog can suffer with any illness, but some breeds are more prone to certain conditions than others 

Unfortunately, pedigree animals are more prone to inherited problems than cross-breeds. If we look at the top three breeds for example – 

  • Labradors are most commonly prone to joint conditions, especially hip or elbow dysplasia and osteoarthritis.
  • French Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed meaning they have a shortened skull and therefore will commonly suffer with breathing problems, specifically BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome), along with skin, eye and joint issues. 
  • Cocker spaniels are known for certain eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). They are also over-represented for skin and ear problems. 

Pet insurance can be a good safety net for many owners 

Although only a licensed insurance broker can advise on specific policies or companies, your vet can give you some tips as to what to look for. 

There are four main types of policy to be aware of:

  1. Lifelong or lifetime – these policies will pay up to a chosen limit every new policy year for the life of the pet. They will cover for new medical conditions and accidents and are typically the most comprehensive policies on the market. 
  2. Maximum benefit – these policies provide a set financial amount for each condition. But there is no time limit on when the money expires. If the maximum amount is reached, there will be no more payouts for that condition. And the owner will have to pay for any further treatment.  
  3. Time limited – these policies will provide cover per condition up to specified amount. But only for a limited time period, often 12 months. If the condition continues beyond this limit, the owner will be required to pay any fees. 
  4. Accident only – this is the most basic type of policy and will only cover for accidents, not illness. There is also often a time limit component to the policy, again, usually 12 months.  

In general, pet insurance will provide cover for veterinary fees including consultations, diagnostics and treatments

However, procedures such as neutering, vaccinations, and routine parasite treatments will often not be covered. You must declare any pre-existing conditions before you take out the policy and these are usually not covered. This includes if you switch from one provider to another. Crucially, dog insurance should also provide third-party liability cover. That is, if your dog injures another animal or person, or damages another person’s property, you will be covered under the insurance. These claims can often run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. So it is often thought of as one of the main reasons to consider taking out pet insurance. 

When owning a pedigree dog, there may be other ‘optional extras’ you might wish to consider.

  • Cover for purchase price – pedigree dogs cost more to buy than cross-breed dogs. Therefore some people may want to add this to their cover. It means that if the dog dies or is lost and doesn’t return, the insurance provider will cover the purchase price of the dog up to a certain amount.
  • Payment towards lost and found fees – sadly, dog thefts have also risen in recent times. Because pedigree dogs demand a higher cost and are less likely to be unneutered in order to continue the breeding line, they are more attractive to thieves. If your dog is stolen, or even if they simply go missing, some policies will pay up to a certain amount towards the cost of advertising the loss of the dog or towards a reward to get them back.
  • Complementary treatments – often, complementary treatments such as osteopathy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy are not covered by pet insurance, or carry a low financial cover limit within a standard policy. Complementary treatments may be just as helpful for non-pedigree dogs, but considering the most popular pedigree dog is the Labrador Retriever who we know commonly suffer with mobility problems, cover for therapies such as hydrotherapy or acupuncture may be very beneficial.

Insurance companies work on risk 

So because pedigree dogs are at higher risk of suffering from certain diseases or conditions, typically, their insurance policies will cost more. The size of the breed can also play a part, for example, a pedigree Bull Mastiff will, on average, cost more to insure than a pedigree Chihuahua. This is because the larger the dog, the more expensive the drug treatments, hospitalisation, and surgery. 

The key when looking at insuring your pedigree pooch is to go in with your eyes wide open.

  • make sure you shop around and ask for recommendations on providers or policies from friends and family
  • make sure you know exactly what you are being covered for, what is excluded and what your financial or time limit is on the policy
  • choose a level of cover that balances an acceptable cover limit with a monthly premium that you are happy to pay
  • check you are happy with the excess on the policy (the amount you will always pay per new claim before the provider calculates their payout) and any extra fees that may apply, such as the requirement to pay a percentage of the claimable veterinary fees, which is often added to policies for older pets
  • remember to read those Terms and Conditions!

We all want to keep our pets happy and healthy. But some dogs just don’t seem to have got the memo and, if they end up needing veterinary care, pet insurance could give you that extra peace of mind and help relieve some of the financial stress. If you have any questions, your veterinary practice will be more than happy to help to guide you through the process and ensure your precious pure-breed doesn’t end up costing you a pretty penny. 


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